Climate change deprives the whole world of sleep

(ORDO NEWS) — Everyone who has tried to sleep during the heat knows what sweaty pangs that a rise in temperature can bring. And global warming won’t make it easier to find a cool spot in bed.

According to billions of smartwatch sleep measurements worldwide, high temperatures caused by climate change are already associated with significant reductions in sleep duration, equivalent to about 11 nights of reduced sleep per year.

Rising nighttime temperatures will only exacerbate the situation. Researchers predict that by 2099, if nothing is done to reduce fossil fuel emissions, hot nights could cut up to 58 hours of sleep per person per year.

Losses were observed in all seasons, in different socio-demographic groups and in different climatic zones, although a warmer climate exacerbated the problem.

In low-income countries where there is no access to electric fans or air conditioners, the authors found more sleep loss due to nighttime temperatures. The elderly and women were also particularly vulnerable.

“In this study, we provide the first planetary evidence that warmer-than-average temperatures are disrupting human sleep,” said study lead author and behavioral scientist Kelton Minor of the University of Copenhagen.

“We have shown that this erosion is mainly due to delayed sleep and accelerated awakening in hot weather.”

The results of the study are based on sleep tracker data from over 47,000 people in 68 countries. More than 7 million of their records were then compared with global meteorological data.

The authors found that on very warm nights, with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), sleep duration was reduced by an average of 14 minutes.

At the same time, nighttime temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius slightly increased the likelihood of getting less than 7 hours of sleep.

Lost minutes of sleep may not seem like much on a daily basis, but in the long run, they can negatively impact a person’s health and performance.

Even one night of sleep deprivation can affect a person’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

And after you fall asleep, it will be difficult for you to get back out, even if you get a good night’s sleep.

“Our bodies are very adapted to maintain a stable body temperature, on which our life depends,” explains Minor.

“And yet, every night, they do something wonderful that most of us don’t realize – they remove heat from our body to the environment, dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow to our hands and feet.”

But if the environment is warmer than we are, our bodies can’t remove the heat while we sleep. On humid nights, it becomes even more difficult to remove heat from the body.

The authors acknowledge that their sample is not perfect. Wearable technology tends to be worn more by middle-aged men in high-income countries. However, the findings offer unprecedented insights into natural sleep patterns over the years.

Using 21 different climate models, the researchers took the sleep losses already observed as a result of the night’s heat and projected them into the future.

In a worst-case scenario, sleep loss due to heat at night would result in more than 15 short nights of sleep per year. At best, we can keep this figure down to 13 nights of sleep.

But this is just an average. Adults in the warmest regions of the world may experience an additional 7 nights of napping per year. And given that smartwatches are not as affordable in these regions, this figure may be underestimated.

“Future global studies are needed that systematically examine the impact of rising temperatures and other climate hazards on the sleep quality of vulnerable populations, especially those living in low-income countries and communities,” the authors conclude.

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